Arts and Humanities Local News

Surreal Play Introduces Kids to Magritte

Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte was known for his playful use of mystery–men in overcoats and bowler hats floating, an apple or a boulder suspended in mid-air. Sometimes silly, always evocative, he captured the imagination of art lovers of all ages.

Alley Theater for Young Audiences will finish a run of Barry Kornhauser’s “This Is Not a Pipe Dream,” a play that introduces the painter as a child chafing under his skeptical father’s rule, this weekend in the Speed Art Museum Auditorium.

Artistic director Dana Hope says Magritte has a unique appeal for younger audiences.

“It’s so out there. I think kids’ minds are open to that coolness,” says Hope. “I think when an adult looks at Magritte’s work you have to take a moment and think, what is this all about? But a child just accepts it.”

Local News

Impressionist Exhibit Opens at Speed Museum

A new exhibit of French Impressionist paintings opens tomorrow at Louisville’s Speed Art Musuem.

Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color features more than 80 works that capture the scenes and people of Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Curator Ruth Cloudman says more than 50 of the works are on loan from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis.

“One of my favorites is A Ballet Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper (1885) by Edgar Degas (below). I think it’s absolutely exquisite. It’s a pastel and he was a master of that very difficult medium. And it was done quite quickly. It was a sketch from life, but it was so exquisitely done,” she said.

Other works in the exhibit come from the Speed and from private collections in Kentucky.

Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color runs though May 6 at the Speed Art Museum.

(At top: The Joyous Festival (1906) by Gaston La Touche. Paintings are from the collecton of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN)

Local News

Speed Museum To Close Next October For Three-Year Renovation

Louisville’s Speed Art Museum will be closed for about three years while the facility undergoes a $50 million renovation.

The work will begin in October of 2012.

Director Charles Venable says the decision to shut down the museum for that long was a difficult one but made in the interest of public safety.

“We’re going to be a pretty complicated place to even be able to get the public into. Our front door is going to be torn down, things like that. It will be very hard to actually welcome people in the building and have them be safe,” Venable told WFPL.

Venable says the Speed will continue its outreach and other community programs during the shutdown.

The renovation project will double the museum’s overall square footage and create new galleries, an education center and sculpture plaza.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Speed Museum Takes Capital Campaign Public

The public phase of the Speed Art Museum’s capital campaign has begun.

The five-year campaign to pay for a second museum building began silently in 2007. Since then, the Speed has raised $42.5 million, which is on track with the campaign schedule.

Much of the current sum was raised through large donations. But now the museum is seeking money from the general public.

“There are going to be many fewer individuals in that very large pool who would have the resources to make a million-dollar gift, but we certainly have some individuals who will we ask for donations at those kind of high levels,” says Speed director Charles Venable. “But this is the part of a campaign where you really want everyone to participate.”

The Speed needs $7.5 million to finance the second building. Venable says the recession—which began shortly after the campaign began—was a concern, but the economy has been helpful so far; it’s driven construction costs down enough to shave several million dollars off the cost of building the new facility and thereby lowered the campaign goal.

“It may very well be that we’re able to go even a little beyond our goal and start doing some of the renovation we’ve announced that we want to do to the original building. I think we’ll play that by ear,” says Venable.

A groundbreaking for the new building is scheduled for next fall.

The second phase of the fundraising campaign will bring the total to $79 million and pay for other expansions and improvements. That’s expected to take several years.

Local News Next Louisville

Speed Museum Exhibit Features Early Kentucky Art

Many of the items from a recent donation of early Kentucky art to Louisville’s Speed Museum are now on exhibit.

The donation comes from Robert and Norma Noe. The natives of Garrard County, Kentucky developed an appreciation of antiques and decorative art while living in the nation’s capital.

They moved back to Kentucky in 1980, and that’s when they began amassing the collection of 19th century Kentucky furniture, paintings, textiles other items.

Many of the 119 pieces are now on view at the museum. Curator of Decorative Arts and Design Scott Erbes says they include an impressive set of sugar chests and sugar desks.

“(It’s) a very distinctive regional form that was made, as the name implies, to store sugar. They were very interested in acquiring those, and so we have a great collection of those. (There are also) interesting paintings and works on paper of well-known Kentuckians like Henry Clay, Cassius Clay—his cousin, and other Kentuckians as well,” Erbes said.

The exhibition, “Kentucky Antiques from the Noe Collection: A Gift to the Commonwealth,” will be on view through early February at the Speed.

(Photos: Sugar Chest, 1800-1820 Walnut, poplar, other woods Probably Madison County, Kentucky, area; Paul Sawyier (American, 1865–1917), Riverbank Scene, Watercolor on paper mounted on board)

Arts and Humanities Local News Uncategorized

Stolen Altarpiece Handed Over to US Government

After spending 40 years at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum, a stolen 14th century work is going home.

The Speed Art Museum bought the piece from a New York Gallery in 1973 for 38 thousand dollars, not realizing the Italian art was stolen from a home in Italy two years earlier.

The work is a three panel altarpiece.  The center panel depicts the Madonna and Child, with the other panels portraying various saints and the crucifixion.

The United States government will hand it over to the Italian government, which will decide whether or not to return it to the family that was burglarized.

Museum Director Charles Venable said at a handover ceremony that it’s often difficult to verify the authenticity of stolen art.

“How many of you have ever been to an antique’s mall?  You can raise your hand, you’re not going to be arrested,” Venable said to the crowd of about 50 people.  “And if you’ve ever bought something at an antique’s mall, how do you really know where that object came from?  There are a lot of objects in the world, and it’s very hard to know where they are every single day.”

An Italian art researcher discovered the work was stolen using an online database in 2009.

The Speed museum has been reimbursed for the full 38 thousand dollars by the New York gallery.  The piece will remain available for viewing until Sunday afternoon.

Local News

Speed Will Return Stolen Art Wednesday

After nearly 40 years in Louisville, a piece of the Speed Art Museum’s collection is returning to Italy.

The Speed bought the 14th Century Italian altarpiece in 1973, not knowing it had been stolen two years prior. When federal officials tracked the piece down, the museum promptly negotiated its return.

“One of the lessons we learned was how fast the United States Government moves when they actually locate something,” says chief curator Ruth Cloudman. “No grass grew under them. That was interesting. And we moved very fast, too.”

The Speed was refunded the $38,000 it spent on the work, and the museum was allowed to put the piece on display last month. On Wednesday, the museum will host a ceremony to formally hand over the painting, which has not been a prominent part of the Speed’s collection.

“In fact, we have two paintings by Bernardo Daddi from the mid-14th Century and he was the great Florentine altarpiece painter. So we are not without 14th Century Italian paintings here,” says Cloudman.

Cloudman says new technology has made it easier to spot stolen art, and it’s unlikely any other pieces at the museum will turn out to be stolen.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Speed to Display Stolen Art

A stolen work of art will be on display at the Speed Art Museum this month before the U.S. government returns it to Italy.

The Speed purchased the three-panel painting, or triptych, of the Virgin Mary and child in 1973 for $38,000. Recently, however, it was discovered that the art had been stolen from an Italian villa in 1971.

The Speed obtained the work through an art dealer, and court records show the museum cooperated with U.S. and Italian officials to verify and relinquish the art. But before the art is returned, it’ll be the centerpiece of an exhibit that showcases its theft and sale.

“We’ll have a really interesting chronology that includes from the very beginning photographs of the villa in Italy that was unfortunately burglarized all the way to a photograph of the man, the dealer from New York who eventually bought the piece,” says museum director Charles Venable.

Stolen works have recently been discovered at museums across the country, but Venable says most of them have likely been in collections for decades and not obtained recently.

“You buy a Greek vase that’s 2,000 years old. There’s no way ever you’re going to know where that vase has been for 2,000 years. It’s impossible. Written history just doesn’t go back that far. We do our very, very, very best and we now sign agreements with galleries that say if it turns out something is stolen and we have to return it we get our purchase price back,” he says. “Everything we buy now, we have very extensive research that we do on the history of things. We have large contracts with the dealers signed with us. That’s something that just didn’t happen in museum history, not just the Speed, really, in the 70s or before.”

The piece will be on display from the 9th through July 3rd. Venable says he’s optimistic the Speed will receive some sort of refund for the art, though the details are being worked out.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Venable Confident About Speed Fundraising Campaign

The director of the Speed Art Museum is confident his organization can complete its capital campaign by the end of this year.

The Speed has quietly been raising money toward a $57 million goal for two years. On Friday, the public phase of the campaign began with $31 million already raised. Director Charles Venable says it’s likely the remaining funds can be raised through matching grants and individual donations.

Arts and Humanities Local News

Speed Museum Director Discusses Renovations, Fundraising

Speed Art Museum director Charles Venable discussed the museum’s impending $79 million makeover Saturday.

Venable told the crowd the capital campaign for the expansion and renovation is the largest ever attempted by a Kentucky arts organization.